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Senator holds up passage of FAA bill

Associated Press / September 15, 2011

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WASHINGTON - A single Republican senator’s objections plus a procedural snarl could force another partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration at the end of this week, potentially putting thousands of workers out of jobs and depriving the government of $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes.

Senate rules do not allow lawmakers to shift from the bill they are currently working on, a disaster aid bill, to a stop-gap funding measure for the FAA and highway programs without the consent of all lawmakers, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said yesterday.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, refused to give his consent. Coburn wants to change the stopgap transportation bill that the House passed on Tuesday by eliminating highway program spending on bike paths, beautification projects, and other so-called transportation enhancements.

Without naming Coburn, Reid effectively accused the senator of acting like a dictator by insisting the rest of the Senate accept his amendment.

“It’s a pretty good way to legislate around here, be a dictator and say either take this or leave it,’’ Reid said. “I’m convinced his issue would lose overwhelmingly. But he’s holding this legislation up, and we are in a position now legislatively that I can’t get . . . to this bill prior to Friday, when the FAA expires.’’

Republicans say the Senate could have passed the transportation bill in time if Reid had not brought up the disaster aid bill first. Because Coburn and other GOP senators also opposed bringing up that measure, Reid on Tuesday set in motion parliamentary procedures that would allow the Senate to pass the disaster aid bill by Saturday.